At first it was the only back-to-back regulation losses of the season. Now, it’s a five game losing streak for the Nashville Predators. While they still lead the Central Division by four points, the Predators tied Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders midway through the third period, only to give up a goal three minutes later in the 4-3 loss.
Thursday’s game was also the second return of defenseman Ryan Ellis. Ellis played in the February 26th match up against the Minnesota Wild, but missed the next three games still healing from his lower body injury. Against the Islanders, Ellis’ ice time was 12:28 and he did not see any time on special teams. Ellis is slowly being eased back into the role he’s used to seeing.
“Today was a lot better,” said Ellis. “I’m just easing back in and getting my feet wet. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but I felt pretty good out there. Hopefully it continues.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette thought Ellis looked more comfortable Thursday night than in his previous game against the Wild.
“I thought he looked like he was moving a bit better,” said Laviolette on Ellis. “We tried to watch his minutes and control him. It’s a slow process, but it’s nice to get him out there.”
Throughout the game, the Predators racked up chances. All in all, Nashville put 31 shots on Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Aside from that, according the NaturalStatTrick.com they also racked up 67 total shot attempts compared to 51 for the Islanders.
“Yeah, we obviously got our chances, some of them went in, some of them didn’t,” said Ellis. “We have to give them credit, especially their goalie, he played well and faced a lot of shots. Their whole team in general is a good hockey team. I think for us, we just need to keep pressuring the puck and getting pucks to the net. Good things happen when we do that.”
In the third period, Ellis notched his first point since a goal on January 6th against Carolina. In taking a shot from the point, the puck bounced off Mike Ribeiro and into the net. After review, the goal was determined to be good, and Ellis registered an assist.
“It was more of a great play by Josi, who started everything,” said Ellis. “More or less, I just wanted to get the puck to the net because there were a lot of guys up front. Ribeiro did a good job of getting in front of the net.”
On Saturday, Nashville will face the Winnipeg Jets, a team battling for a playoff spot. According to Ellis, there isn’t much that needs to be fixed. They just have to continue to play their game and good things will happen.
“I don’t think we have to fix too much,” said Ellis. “We played a good game. They just got a couple of bounces and they finished when they did. For us, in general, we just need to press the pace and move pucks and get pucks to the net.”
While the Predators have lost five in a row, they still maintain the top position in the Central Division, and are still in very good position for playoff seeding. The streak has shown flaws that must be fixed in order for there to be a deep playoff run. With a lighter schedule in March in regards to games to be played, look for them to take full advantage of practice time as well as rest days as February was an extremely demanding month on the team.
Peter Laviolette’s post game press conference:
Photo credit: Kristen Jerkins